Most people have no idea what goes into creating a one-of-a-kind wedding stationery ensemble. I will try to make this an interesting multi-part series about creating a bespoke stationery wardrobe from save the dates to thank you notes.

Like any other part of wedding planning, it’s all about figuring out what it is you really want. In my opinion, there are 3 pieces that are non-negotiable must-haves.

    What: They give guests the date, time, place and level of formality of your wedding, and solicit their RSVPs so you know who’s coming.Why: There’s no getting around having wedding invitations. Even if you’re only inviting 12 people, it still merits a printed and personalized notice. PLEASE resist the urge to email your invites; yes, it’ll save trees and it’s easy and it’s cheap/free, but your grandmother won’t get it. Something as special as the invitation and announcement of your wedding day deserves more than an electronic afterthought.
    What: These are set out for guests to pick up as they enter the reception. Each lists a guest’s name and lets them know which table they’re assigned to.Why: Even for a small wedding, it’s a good idea to direct guests instead of letting them choose their own seats. Otherwise, there can be conflict about sitting next to so-and-so, or your grandparents might get stuck in the back while your fiance’s friends land “good” spots.
    What: I hope this one’s obvious: they’re for thanking guests for attending your wedding and giving you gifts.Why: I am a BIG believer in giving thanks. All à deux stationery packages include coordinating thank-you notes. Seriously, you must send a personal thank-you note for each and every gift you receive, whether they were wedding gifts, shower gifts or engagement gifts. PLEASE DO THIS.

    Etiquette suggests sending them no more than two weeks after receiving early wedding gifts and six weeks after getting back from your honeymoon.

After these basics have been squared away you can start thinking about the extras:

    Sent six months to one year before your wedding date, they give guests their first peek at your plans and a chance to mark their calendars. If you’re having a destination wedding, inviting lots of out-of-towners or getting married on a holiday weekend, your guests need the info early. Save-the-dates are fine to send out via email if you need to save money.
    They let your guests know what’s going on during the ceremony: the order of events, explanations of religious customs, who’s who in the wedding party and any other info you want to give. If your ceremony includes traditions that guests may not be familiar with, your program lets you explain them so guests can be part of the ceremony instead of just being confused.
    They mark guests’ seats at the individual tables. If escort cards are already directing guests to tables, place cards aren’t necessary. Couples, friends and families will pick seats near each other. If you’re hoping to have your friends mingle, assigning seating with place cards can get them talking. If you’re having long banquet tables, assigning specific spots will keep groups together.
    You may want your guests to be able to think about their options, if you’re giving them any. A menu card is also an opportunity to give guests special information about the food, like if certain eatables are locally grown, organic, vegan or Kosher. If you don’t want the added cost of all those cards, consider doing one larger menu card per table or combining it with your table numbers.
    Wedding-related paper products are nearly endless: Engagement announcements, maps, rehearsal dinner invitations, favor tags, seating charts, table numbers … all of these are options you can choose if your budget allows. To keep a consistent look and theme with the primary wedding invitation, I recommend ordering the extras at the same time as the rest of the stationery.

Now that you know what you need, how should you choose where to get it from? Next week: Choosing your stationer.

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